In this story, I will quickly go over some of the big players in the market and their investments in AR. Note that there number of smaller organizations and startups that are working on this. Many smaller players have great technologies and are well funded, that are not covered here unless I think they are worth mentioning. I am trying to cover this from developer’s point of view and not so much from technology / consumer point of view. Technology that is used for tracking (SLAM) to make this possible today is now old enough and have many contributors to it.
let’s dive into it starting with 2 largest Smartphone platforms —
Starting iOS 11, we will get native support for AR. Apple devices running Apple A9, A10, and A11 processors is capable of delivering experience with ARKit.
ARKit — Apples’s SDK / toolkit to build AR apps on apple platform with great integration with Metal, SceneKit, Unity and Unreal.
The story here is slightly twisted. Google, with project Tango had AR experiences starting Android M. The Lenovo Phab 2 Pro and Asus Zenphone is great demonstration of what it can do. The caveat here was the specialized hardware. With ARCore developer preview, Google is making AR possible with Android N and above on Pixel and selected Samsung phones.
ARCore is google’s developer platform to build great AR experience on android. This is what I worked on and proud to be part of.
Microsoft has positioned the offering in this space as Mixed reality. From platform point of view, they have a great advantage, in terms of early entrants, with their hardware and software. Microsoft (to me) seems to be more focused on enterprise use cases with their “Holographic computing”. When I tried this first time, I was blown away with the experience and the interactive gestures with AR objects.
Microsoft is rather going aggressive with their platform and developer tools, a great example of this is integration with simple tool like Paint 3D. You can create a 3D shapes and see how they look in MR, right on your desktop in 2D.
Paint 3D and mixed reality.
In 2017 F8 conference, Facebook announced AR Studio. while I never got my invitation to beta and so I don’t have first hand information with this. From lot of press coverage and few folks I know, the tool set is basically to build experiences in and around Facebook and famous Oculus platform.
Real hot out of the oven (as of late Nov’17), amazon announced Sumerian. This a platform for developers building AR and VR apps. Use cases targeted towards education, retail and virtual concierge. From the videos that I have seen so far, In my opinion, Sumerian is a great combination of WebVR, amazon’s voice recognition capabilities and existing product database to give out a platform to developers to build retail consumer oriented scenarios. It’s great for someone who wants to build on top of ARKit and ARCore.
I was on the fence here to add this to the list. However small this company is, they have a good investments and roadmap to be AR first citizen for in their offerings. Recently, they announced something around art platform which I am not sure how exactly it works, but has its own quirks. Also they have “spectacles” that arguably no one bought (bad timing?) that talks a lot about bringing AR to masses.
Other noteworthy Platforms / AR backend services
Another player which is been around for a while, recently announced the meta 2 headset. These folks are following product strategy on the similar lines of Microsoft’s hololens. You can know more about meta2 development kit here
Another emerging player with “No coding skills required” tag line, promises platform more around content, similar to Amazon’s Sumerian. You can check them out at byondxr.com
Magic Leap —
Much is said about this, rather controversial, but still in existence.
Galore of SDKs and Tools —
To wrap up, some of the worth mentions are ARToolkit.org and VuForia. Developers have designed and build quite a bit of experiences around these tools. Also, little outdated at this time but this tells a lot about previous attempts made in this area for developers.
Worth mention the names of TurboSquid and Sketchfab who has done a great work making the 3D object libraries that will power tomorrow’s AR experience.
In conclusion, I think native developers will continue to invest in the native platforms. Emergence of native platforms from big players, cross platform developers will be looking for ecosystem around content, tools and publishing across consumer and enterprise market. There is a good amount of gap to be bridged to make AR experience seamless and multi-modal.